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02 October 2023

UN special envoy in Indian Kashmir


United Nations special rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya arrived in Indian Kashmir Wednesday to review the working conditions of human rights defenders in the disputed Himalayan region.

Sekaggya, appointed UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2008, said she would submit a report to the UN Human Rights Council after her two-day fact-finding mission in Kashmir.

She told reporters in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, that she will report "on the challenges faced by human rights defenders and make recommendations to improve their functioning".

Sekaggya is the second such UN envoy to travel to Kashmir since 2008 when Pakistani rights activist Asma Jahangir travelled to the Himalayan region.

Sekaggya, a lawyer from Uganda, said she had met several victims of alleged rights violations after reaching Srinagar.

Her trip comes less than a week after New Delhi announced plans to reduce its security forces by a quarter in Kashmir, to ease conditions for local people in one of the world's most militarised areas.

The announcement was intended to rebuild fractured public goodwill after a violent uprising in the Muslim-majority region last year.

India faced one of its biggest challenges over the divided territory last summer when more than 100 people were shot dead by security forces during demonstrations.

The security drawdown signals a shift in New Delhi's focus from fighting an Islamist insurgency in Kashmir that raged for over 20 years and claimed more than 47,000 lives, according to an official count.

Deaths due to the violence are at their lowest level in more than a decade.

The region is split between India and Pakistan and has been the trigger for two of the three wars fought between them since their independence in 1947.